28 September 2009

The Working Families Party: Pawn of the Bipolarchy?

The Working Families Party aspires to be an independent force in New York State politics. Its first priority was to gain a line on the state ballot. The shortcut to this goal is cross-endorsement. The party endorses Democratic candidates in statewide elections, exhorting progressives to vote for those candidates on its line rather than the Democratic line. The candidate still gets the votes, and every vote so cast counts toward earning Working Families a line. That strategy has worked, but in at least one part of the state the WFP has found their hard-won electoral property difficult to maintain.

In Rensselaer County the WFP has found itself vulnerable to primary challenges from puppets of the major parties. Dependable people register as Working Families members in order to vote in the primaries. In some cases candidates associated with the Republican party have won the Working Families line. That doesn't mean that WFP goes conservative, but it means that there'll be a rival for the "progressive" vote in close elections when genuine WFP people might prefer to support the Democratic candidate. This year, however, Democrats appear to have taken steps to counter Republican influence, and may have stepped over the line. An investigation is now under way of alleged fraud in the casting of absentee ballots. Votes were cast in the names of people who have since stepped forward to deny signing forms authorizing absentee ballots. The physical evidence shows clear discrepancies between signatures on the absentee forms and the supposed voters' actual signatures. The story is already getting attention outside Rensselaer County, since vote fraud is Republicans' favorite story to tell against Democrats.

Arguably, Working Families has done this to itself by failing to cultivate its voter and candidate base in Rensselaer County. But their perceived need for a ballot line created the vulnerability in the first place. In a better system, an independent political party should be able to establish its viability without making itself a target for hostile takeover in every subsequent election. Maybe the ballot line isn't the proof of viability that some take it to be. If the party were really viable, it shouldn't get taken over so easily; there would be dedicated partisans in every district with enough consciousness of their party's distinct agenda to beat back any infiltrators. In any event, the farce in Rensselaer County shows that ballot access alone isn't the answer to the problem of the two-party system. It may even show that ballot access is a distraction from the deeper structural handicaps facing independent parties, since in this case the WFP's successful claim on a ballot line has only played into other partisans' hands.


hobbyfan said...

I have a friend who is running for Rensselaer County Legislature. He'll be on the November ballot as a Democrat, but ran in the primary as both a Democrat and on the Working Families party line.

I shouldn't be surprised at all that Mirch is "leading an investigation". Kind of like a greedy land baron covering his tracks. It's time to let the "3rd parties" stand on their own collective two feet and withstand the interference of political barons.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the questionable ballots were supplied by Mirch or his operatives. A long time resident of Troy, I've heard numerous stories of his underhanded and occasional strong arm tactics against political opponents & others, including using his position in the city of Troy to bring Code Enforcement against his "enemies" or just people saying something he doesn't want said publicly. After all, I believe he is still involved in a lawsuit against him, the city of Troy and a few others for violation of Free Speech.

As long as the Republican party allows people with that "party boss" attitude of 100 years ago, to be involved as active members, they will not get my vote.

hobbyfan said...

We're lucky Mirch doesn't consider running for mayor after Tutunjian's term ends next year. The last thing we need is a guy with Mirch's questionable reputation turning the town into a dictatorship. Time, then, to put this geek on ice and run him out of all his gigs.

Anonymous said...

He wouldn't stand up to the public scrutiny a mayoral run would bring to bear. He knows this, which is why he doesn't run for Mayor. I'll be very surprised if the Republicans manage to get another pawn in as mayor considering the dismal record of Tutunjian.